Nine Beats

A few years ago, at the Greenbelt Festival,  I came across a group called the Nine Beats Collective
who were running some sessions based around the ancient wisdom of nine sayings of Jesus.
These sayings of Jesus all start with the word blessed – blessed are you when …
So I went to the sessions, and I bought a little book – The Ninefold Path – that contained some reflections and spiritual exercises, but it stayed on my bookshelf – that is until this week.
I had actually been thinking about the book last week sometime, and on Monday I decided to have a look at in my daily prayer time.  So I took the book, along with my Bible and my notebook and sat down to read.  First, I looked to see what my daily reading from the Bible was, and could hardly believe it when I saw that it was those exact same sayings of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel!
I just love it when that happens. Call it synchronicity if you like. It’s when God says something through the daily events of life.  It happens a lot actually if you look out for it.
That encouraged me to take The Ninefold Path book and look at it seriously.  So this week, I have been focusing on Beatitude no. 1 – Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Essentially this is saying that the most important thing that God is looking for in us is a willingness to let go of the idea that it’s all about our own efforts.  All that God has for us is gift. We simply have to see our poverty and need, and receive.
So each day this week, among other things, I’ve been asking myself:
What am I thankful for today ?
What do I need today ?
One of the the things I love about these sayings of Jesus is that they are so accessible.  You don’t need to be a religious (as in Churchy) person to benefit from them.  You don’t need a degree in theology.  You don’t even need to have much in the way of believing in God actually, just an openness to learn and receive. There’s wisdom here to help anyone in daily life.
You’re blessed when you’ve come to the end of your own resources. With less of you there is more of God and his way of living.

The Road to Compostela

Yesterday, I met two women, both Methodist ministers, who have walked the road from St Jean Pied de Port to Compostela.  It’s a pilgrim route, 500 miles long.

They walked it last May, taking everything except a tent with them, and it took them 5 weeks.  They described the hardships of the walk:  blisters, tiredness, the weather (torrential rain), lack of food.  It wasn’t as if there were supermarkets to shop in.  Sometimes they just went without food if there was no shop in the village where they slept. They stayed in hostels, in rickety bunk beds, surrounded by snoring travellers. (Germans and Koreans were the worst offenders).  Hostels sometimes offered food, but you get fed up with steak and chips after a few days.  On one occasion, tired at the end of the day, and with no food, a local family gave them some bread and a bottle of wine.
I get the feeling that walking the pilgrim route in this way would be incredibly challenging.  You cannot book a bed ahead of time at these hostels, so you just have to hope that there is a bed when you get there.  If someone passes you on the route, you ask yourself if they will get the last bed in the hostel, which is an encouragement not to slow down too much.
I said to them ‘After all these hardships, you must have had a great sense of satisfaction when you finally arrived at Compostela’  
They answered that it was not the arriving, but the journey that was important.  The first morning after they arrived at Compostela, they felt like they should be walking again.  Having spent 5 weeks walking day after day, it didn’t seem right not to walk.  They even described a feeling of bereavement having finished the pilgrimage.
Another reflection that they shared with me was this.  For many Christians, faith is about arriving at our final destination (heaven) – We are saved for heaven.  The Christian message is often explained in terms of having sins forgiven so that when we die we can go to heaven.  For them, the pilgrimage made them realise that however important the destination is, it’s the journey that teaches us and shapes us.  Being ‘saved’ is about life and living, here and now.
Thanks  to Sue and Bev